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2011 | 25 | 47-91

Article title

Arbor sanguinis, arbor disciplinarum: The Intellectual Genealogy of Johann Heinrich Alsted – Part I. Alsted's Intellectual Inheritance


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Although by no means a genius, Comenius's teacher, Johann Heinrich Alsted (1558–1638), was in one sense a prodigy. His great Encyclopaedia of 1630 was fi rst sketched out in his Panacea 91 philosophica of 1610, when the young Herborner was only 22 years old; and in the larger Artium liberalium ac facultatum omnium systema mnemonicum, completed the previous year, its origins are traced back further still, to the outset of his studies in the Herborn academy in 1602, at the tender age of fourteen. More specifi cally, Alsted reveals that his encyclopaedic project began as a commonplace book collected in no small part from his father's table talk, his mother's precepts and practice, his grandfather's library, and the extraordinarily rich collection of pedagogical theorists in his immediate family circle. This paper traces Alsted's genealogy as a bibliographical as well as a biographical exercise: that is, as a means not merely of revealing his bloodlines, but of tracing the intellectual genealogy of an individual at once deeply rooted in the Reformed academic and clerical community of Hesse and the Wetterau and impatient to break free of established orthodoxies in pursuit of a fresh intellectual synthesis. Tracing the tangled roots of this genealogy back several generations reveals that Alsted's yearning for further reformation fed upon lengthy familial engagement with various strands of Renaissance humanism, Reformed theology, Ramist pedagogy, Paracelsian medicine, and perhaps even millenarianism.


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